The cancer-causing toxins that come with your Sweetgreen salad


Did you see the recent report by the New Food Economy that the compostable bowls used at Sweetgreen, Chipotle, and Dig Inn contain cancer-causing chemicals?

Before getting into the details of the horrible toxics in these containers, the article states that “fiber products are a way to abate the guilt that comes with getting to-go food.”

This has always been my problem with the brown, natural-looking containers popping up at our favorite healthy eateries. “Compostable” and “biodegradable” products only make us feel better while not actually being a good, or even a better, solution. This opinion was based on the facts that people don’t compost, don’t have access to commercial composting, and don’t know the difference between commercial composting and backyard composting. Because these bowls are only commercially compostable, unless they go to a commercial composting facility, they end up in landfill and contribute to our massive waste problem. And how many regular garbage cans do you see filled with these containers? A LOT.

Suffice it to say, I was never a fan. And, here’s why you shouldn't be either.

According to the experts consulted for the story, these bowls have PFAs or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of substances with more than 4000 compounds. The fluorinated compounds don’t biodegrade naturally in the environment and have been linked to chronic diseases like colitis, thyroid issues, and cancer.

Let me say that again, some compounds in these biodegradable-looking bowls are NOT naturally biodegradable. And, they actually make the compost that they’re added to MORE TOXIC. And, on top of that, those toxic chemicals leach into your food and then can HARM YOU.

Surprised? I’m not.

In 9th grade biology class, Mrs. Cunningham taught us how to look for lipids (aka fat) in a food using a brown paper bag. (Anyone else remember this experiment?) It’s quite simple really. You make a solution of food, add a few drops onto a paper bag, and wait a few moments. If, when you hold the bag up to light, the bag looks translucent, the food contains lipids! See here:

lipid test.jpg

Those brown containers we purchase food in seem indestructible. They rarely leak, and they can support quite large portions of heavy, oil drenched foods and all the salad dressing you could ever want. This should set off alarm bells…of course this packaging contains chemicals to make it sturdy! Not all these chemicals are harmful, but does it really surprise you learn that companies knowingly added toxic PFAs to the packaging?

The best option is never going to be a single use product- no matter how hard we wish for it. From a health and environmental perspective, waste will always lose. Let’s accept that, embrace it, and feel fortunate that there are healthy, sustainable ways to have your takeout and eat it too.

Bring your own container and vote with your dollar. Most places happily fill my containers with my food of choice and, if they don’t, I don’t buy from them.

Let’s SHOW that we CARE. BRING YOUR OWN CONTAINER TO YOUR FAVORITE TAKEOUT SPOT. Actually do it and you’ll realize it isn’t that big of a deal afterall. Tag me @abbysfoodcourt on Instagram & use #takeoutnaked so I can see your accomplishments.

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